A Reddit guy called “The HeyHey Man” has cracked the “why did Booksmart underperform?” code. He’s explained it clearly and succinctly. He’s gone where various sage industry analysts (such as the Indiewire gang) have feared to tred. And he waited almost eight full months to share.
In a nutshell, Olivia Wilde’s film failed to connect in a Superbad way because it wasn’t relatable enough for average middle-classers who live outside of the flush realms of politically correct, sexually ambiguous Los Angeles-for-teens. The elite high-school world in which Beanie Feldstein‘s Molly and Kaitlyn Dever‘s Amy operated was too tart, too wealthy, too swimming pooled, too Bloomingdaled, too Shangrila’ed, too fantasy’ed, too entitled.
HeyHey: “[After Booksmart opened] critics and film journalists/bloggers were wondering why the movie hadn’t reached a larger audience. I believe it’s the fact that Booksmart may as well be happening on another planet.
“How are we the audience supposed to place ourselves in the shoes of these characters when the vast majority of us have not, for example, frequented a posh house party in a mansion in an upscale LA neighborhood?
“I grew up as an upper middle classer and have never been to a house party like the one depicted in Booksmart. Not once. I’ve never stripped down to my underwear and jumped into a gorgeous backyard pool surrounded by palm trees with a bunch of other beautiful, scantily clad people. My parents never gave me or let me drive a $70k SUV. My high school didn’t look like some sort of modern art institute.
“All power to you if you grew up in this Hollywood fantasy world but I’m fairly certain 99% of us did not. And Hollywood wants to know why these movies aren’t hitting with audiences? Seems fairly obvious to me.
“Why did Superbad succeed when Booksmart did not? Why did it become a cultural phenomenon? Because the characters were relatable, and the situations, although exaggerated, also were.
“Ever been underage at a party in a strange house with older people you didn’t really know, and found yourself in an awkward situation? Oh, yeah. Tried to score booze with a fake ID? I never had one but a buddy did and it was always nerve wracking. Played videogames with friends in a basement and drinking the parents’ booze. Raises hand again. The things in that movie also all happened in relatively average middle class environments. Boom, people relate, and word of mouth is strong.
“Booksmart was fine but it wasn’t the comedic masterpiece I was led to believe it was by critics and journalists. The girls were great and the best moments in the movie were the intimate and honest moments between them but I couldn’t place myself really in any of the situations they found themselves in. It’s time for Hollywood to realize there is a whole lot of country, culture, and class out there. They need to figure this shit out.”
HE postscript: Of all the relatable elements that Superbad had and Booksmart lacked, “The HeyHey Man” didn’t mention one particular thing that he probably didn’t feel a profound kinship with or understanding of. You know what I mean. I’m reluctant to say it because the Stalinist commissars will raise their eyebrows if I do. Okay, I’ll spit it out. HeyHey didn’t relate to the sappho.